Bad Dreams During Pregnancy: Is It Normal?
Dreams are a series of sensations, emotions, ideas, and images that occur in a person’s mind during certain stages of sleep. However, these emotions and images of dreams become more intense during pregnancy.
Some women may dream of a baby’s appearance, some will vividly dream of the actual birth, and some may dream about something wrong happening with the baby. These bad dreams during pregnancy can be disconcerting; they are like an unexpected side effect of pregnancy changes.
But what changes during the pregnancy? And what causes weird dreams during pregnancy?
The weird dreams are partly because of hormone changes that may impact emotions. But, besides these changes, other reasons can cause a woman to experience bad dreams during pregnancy.
Scroll down to learn how & why pregnancy affects dreams and learn about the different types of pregnancy dreams.
How Does Pregnancy Affect Dreams
Pregnancy brings in a lot of physical and mental changes, and bad dreams during pregnancy are one of those changes. These dreams become highly realistic or confusing nightmares.
Since dreams are fragments of conscious experience like mood, imagination, concerns, and interests, during pregnancy, women may experience pregnancy or baby-related dreams. The dream themes may include bad dreams during pregnancy about the husband, labour and delivery, or something terrible happening to the baby.
Sometimes, there can be dreams about meeting the baby or knowing the sex of the baby. Pregnancy-themed dreams are partly due to hormones that may impact emotions. Furthermore, these dreams are known to occur even after giving birth.
Why Does Pregnancy Affect Dreams
Weird dreams during pregnancy are due to an increase in hormone production. The fluctuating hormones may impact emotions and anxiety and affect how the brain processes information and emotions. And vivid dreams can be the body’s way of sorting through the feelings and concerns that arise during pregnancy.
Another cause can be the disruption in sleep patterns during pregnancy. Although sleep time increases during the first trimester, it also decreases during the third trimester.
Women either wake due to discomfort in the back or legs or the urge to urinate more frequently wakes them up. Sleep disruption could also give the allusion to dreaming more vivid dreams. Moreover, anxiety, depression, and stress during pregnancy could easily lead to more intense dreams or even nightmares.
Pregnancy and the Sleep Cycle
Sleep changes dramatically through each trimester of pregnancy. During the first trimester, the total sleep time increases at night with frequent daytime naps. However, sleep is less efficient, and women may complain of poor sleep quality with frequent awakenings.
During the second trimester, sleep may improve with better sleep efficiency and less sleep disruption at night. However, sleep gets less efficient by the end of the second trimester with frequent awakenings.
In the final trimester of pregnancy, women may experience pregnancy-related discomfort. This discomfort includes sore breasts, swelling, heartburn, and back pain — it can cause fragmented sleep with multiple nighttime awakenings.
What Are Different Pregnancy Dreams
Pregnancy dreams are often rooted in the worries and joys of pregnancy and the changing roles of lives. However, during pregnancy, dreams are of a different frequency; they become more intense, realistic, and nightmarish. Following are the common dream changes experienced during pregnancy:
People sometimes dream so vividly that it lingers hazily in their minds and feels similar to real-life memories. The intense emotions and clear imagery of dreams may seem like the events are happening.
But during pregnancy, vivid dreams can occur often. And rather than fuzzy images, these dreams seem like real life. In addition, these dreams reflect the emotional state and concerns of the woman.
Nightmares are often fears of the dreamer playing in dreams. And nightmares during pregnancy aren’t uncommon. According to a study, about 6%–10% of pregnant women reported severe nightmares related to fear of childbirth, while 40%–50% reported nightmares sometimes.
Women may have dreams like harm coming to them, a member of their family, or the baby is a common pregnancy-related theme. These dreams could be because of the fear and anxiety of labour and delivery.
While some may ignore or shrug it off, fear-based dreams can be very disheartening and bothersome. Furthermore, when it comes to dreaming about realistic birth dreams or something happening to the unborn child, it’s not as easy to laugh them off.
Anxiety Based Dreams
While the new parents-to-be are ecstatic, they are also a little anxious. Because preparing for a baby takes a lot of time and energy.
Anxieties like financial worries, juggling equal attention between newborn and other children, and continuing to work with a newborn. Also, not to forget the anxiety about labour and delivery. These little worries and anxieties trigger anxiety-based dreams.
Pregnancy and motherhood can be exciting but also nerve-racking. The intense and overwhelming emotions are not uncommon. However, these emotions will likely play out in dreams because dreams are fragments of conscious experiences like mood, imagination, concerns, and interests.
Ability to Remember Dreams More Clearly
Usually, people may have difficulty remembering their dreams in the morning and even convince themselves they didn’t dream at all. However, during pregnancy, women can easily remember their dreams. For example, some women may dream of their baby talking to them, or a dream of naming their baby, and dreams about the sex of their baby.
More Frequent Dreaming
Women tend to dream more frequently and vividly during pregnancy due to changing hormones. These dreams can be bizarre, weird, or even crazy. Moreover, women believe that they have more dreams during pregnancy.
It is plausible since women tend to often feel fatigued during pregnancy. The more they feel tired, the more rest they crave. And it might not be far-fetched to say that more sleeping causes more dreaming.
Should I Be Worried About Bad Dreams During Pregnancy
Dreaming is a healthy part of sleeping; in most cases, it can help a person process information and better understand their emotions. And during pregnancy, vivid dreams are normal. Especially during the first pregnancy, dreams play out and evoke strong emotions of maternal mental representations of the unborn baby.
Furthermore, dreams are considered responsive to new emotion-evoking situations requiring adaptation during the pregnancy, particularly situations involving close friends and family members. They are also believed to connect recent emotional experiences to self-relevant memories by portraying interpersonal conflicts and concerns.
To sum it up, bad dreams during pregnancy are linked with the mental reorganisation of feelings, cognitions, and relationships relating to the self and the unborn baby.
In addition, fluctuating hormonal changes can cause pregnant women to experience mood swings. These hormonal changes can cause increased tiredness, meaning pregnant women are likely to sleep more frequently and have more of these recurring anxiety-based dreams.
However, sometimes disruption in sleep patterns can also trigger changes in dreams. So, to improve sleep quality and reduce nighttime awakenings, you can follow some sleep tips.
Sleep tips like:
- Avoiding liquids before bed reduces the urge to urinate in the middle of the night.
- Keeping the room dark and the temperature at a comforting level.
- Try meditation, yoga, or other prenatal courses.
- Keeping a dream journal might help in deciphering the thought patterns.
- Although it’s okay to nap during the daytime, avoid long naps that could keep you awake at night.
Vivid and weird dreams during pregnancy are normal. And though dreams shouldn’t necessarily be taken literally, they may still reflect underlying concerns or anxieties and can become troublesome when they cause you to lose sleep.
So, try to keep calm and follow the above-mentioned sleep tips to improve sleep quality and reduce nighttime awakenings. But if your dreams are causing distress, speak with your doctor or a counsellor.
When do nightmares start in pregnancy?
Changes in a person’s dreams are common during pregnancy, especially in the third trimester.
In a 2016 study of 406 pregnant women aged 16-40 years, more than 11% reported nightmares once a week or more frequently.
Are night terrors common during pregnancy?
Pregnancy nightmares are not uncommon, according to a 2016 study, and are usually triggered by your emotions. This could be fear or anxiety about labour and delivery, or it could be something wrong with the baby. These nightmares can take various forms.
Do pregnancy dreams mean anything?
Pregnancy dreams may reflect your fear, excitement and anxiety about the physical and emotional changes that are taking place in your body. Pregnant women frequently dream about their baby, body changes, baby animals’ water, and labour.
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